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Full text of "Flora Indica Vol-I"

54                                      FLOBA INDICA.                   [Ranunculacea.
the others by the hairy pale-coloured posterior petals, a character which appears
constant in a considerable series of specimens. It differs a go-jd deal in habit from
all the other species except the last, the leaves of which are very different, so that
we do not hesitate to keep it distinct. At the same time we readily admit that it
is quite possible that more extended observation will show that the characters derived
from the follicles and petals are of less importance than we at present believe, iu
which case several of tLo species above described must necessarily be reduced.
17. ACONITUM, L.
Nirbisia, 0. Don, Syst. Gardening^ i. 63 j Calthae sp., Earn, in Edin< Joum. Sc.
i. 249.
Sepala 5, insequalia; supremum (cassis) convexum vel fornicatum,
csetera plana. Petala 3 superiora intra cassidern abscondita, iniguicu-
lataa apice in sacciim (cucullinn) forma varium expansa, crctera minima
vel abortiva. Ovaria 3-6.—Ilerboe perennes, erecta, folmjpalMatisectis.
Plores ochroleud) violacei, vel satpi-us c&ruki.
This genus is entirely confined to the northern hemisphere, the species being
chiefly European nud north Asiatic. A few only are American. Some inhabit
woods, others mountain pastures, and the latter are often very alpine. The Indian
species are all temperate Himalayan, and occur iu every part of that chain in nearly
equal proportions, but most abundantly perhaps to the eastward in the humid parts
of Nipal and Sikkim, where they grow in veiy wet places, generally near streams.
Four of the Ilimalayau species are endemic, but three are common to tnese moun-
tains and Europe. Of these, two inhabit the forest region, btit one (the com-
mon A. Napellw] is in India always alpine, and confined to the driest regions in the
interior.
There appears to be no necessity for following Reichenbach into the critical de-
tails by which, he has illustrated this Protean genus, as most botanists appear con-
vinced that he has enormously over-estimated the number of species. Most Aconites
grow with great luxuriance in rich soil, and have besides been very extensively culti-
vated : they therefore vary much in luxuriance, and iu the size of the flowers. The
shape of the sepals and petals is also far from constant, and it is upon slight differ-
ences in these that Keichenbach relies for the discrimination of his species. These
differences are merely of degree, and arc so trifling, that an examination of the
plates of his monograph of the genus, will, we think, satisfy most persons, that at
least three-fourths of his species are mere varieties. In1 this opinion wo are sup-
ported by the authority of Scringe, who seems to have studied the genus with great
care in the mountains of tSwitzerland, as well as in a state of cultivation, and whose
testimony to the great amount of variation in all parts of the flower is quite in ac-
cordance with what we have observed in the Indian species. The characters of the
species are difficult to express in words with precision, as they are chiefly derived
from .variations in the shape of the posterior sepal or helmet, and of the petals,
which are very irregular.
The roots of certain species of this genus constitute the celebrated Bikk poison
of the Himalaya. The result of our inquiries into this interesting- subject has been,
that no individual species is particularly prized, but that several yield this virulent
poison. The degree of virulence varies greatly according to the soil, exposure, cli-
mate, and altitude, at which the plant grows,—to sudi a degree indeed, that we (have
grounds for believing that the same species which te-violeutly deleterious in humid
shaded localities, is all but inert in drier, loftier, colder, and more suuuy places. That
this is no anomaly in the vegetable kingdom is notorious to persons familiar with
the influence of external causes on the development of medicmul properties in the
Hemp and Vopuy. So far as our experience goes, A. Napdlu?, J&TGJC, palmutum,